Read Stephen's bio and previous columns
January 13, 2009
Bush's Sorry Legacy
first saw the bumper sticker at some point in 2005, I think. A cryptic
message stating "01.20.09," shown on later inspection to be a countdown
to the end of President Bush's just-begun second term. Now, it's hard to
believe – that date is just a week away.
his final news conference Monday, the president said goodbye to the
press corps that he had held in contempt for years, steadfastly denying
that his presidency has diminished America's moral authority in the
world. He even did what he had refused to do for the majority of his
presidency – admitted to actual mistakes.
And there have been so many. Bush's legacy has many aspects, almost all
of them very, very bad. In his eight years in office, Bush presided over
the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, a hurricane that
flooded a major city as the federal government stood idly by, and the
worst economic crisis in seven decades. He also launched an ill-fated
war under questionable circumstances and instituted torture and other
shamefully unconstitutional interrogation programs.
But that's not all! There's also the estrangement from the rest of the
world, the failure to find Osama Bin Laden or lift a finger in regard to
global warming, the explosion in the deficit and national debt, the
full-throated embrace of know-nothing hackery and rejection of
intellectualism and Bush's destruction of the conservative Republican
brand for the foreseeable future.
Sure, the right can cry "Bush Derangement Syndrome!" at any and all
criticism of a president whose approval rating hasn't exceeded 30
percent in years – as though liberals who considered Bush a nightmare
from the very beginning hadn't been proven totally prescient and totally
right. America has given its verdict on the Bush years – two straight
Democratic electoral landslides, leading to the election to the
presidency of Bush's ideological opposite.
Some honest conservatives acknowledge the damage Bush has done, to their
cause and to the country itself, and have done what they can to address
the damage and move forward. Others have tried to argue that Bush was
never a conservative after all, while others still say he didn't go
nearly far enough.
Others still pretend that Bush will somehow be vindicated by history,
that events of the future will see him as some sort of visionary who
somehow knew best when no one else did. As though historians will
someday determine that torturing detainees was the right move after all,
or that the “Mission Accomplished” banner was a good idea, or that the
federal government really had no business sending help to New Orleans.
More likely, history will make the Bush-Cheney years look even worse in
retrospect, as more and more revelations trickle out and a more complete
picture emerges of all the disastrous executive decisions made in the
last eight years. Jane Mayer's amazing history The Dark Side has
shed considerable light on the establishment of the torture regime. Wait
until 10 more books like it appear, looking at other aspects of the
administration's political and moral failures.
Does Bush deserve any praise? Some. He refused to join the hysterical
anti-immigration crusade of his party's base, and while it came years
too late, the surge in Iraq appears to have largely succeeded. And yes,
Bush has succeeded in preventing any further terror attacks since Sept.
11 – although he also didn't prevent 9/11 itself.
Whether its foreign policy or domestic policy, the Bush-Cheney
Administration has failed on virtually every level, and it's almost
impossible to imagine history will render a verdict much different from
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.